Royal Parks to get new police unit

A crackdown on crime is promised when the Metropolitan police takes over the Royal Parks police.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) will crack down on crime when it takes over the abolished Royal Parks Constabulary (RPC) this month. New Operational Command Unit (OCU) commander Simon Ovens is completing the winding up of the RPC, which dates back to 1872.

Since 1 April 2004, the RPC and the MPS have co-policed the parks. Ovens, who is replacing Helen Ball as OCU commander, said each of the 100-plus parks officers would have targets for detection of crime each month.

He introduced the idea to the London Borough of Merton, where he was superintendent for the past three years. He said officers’ performance would be examined if they did not reach targets.

He added: "There is a lot of change going on, winding up the old and bringing a focus on crime. We will be more focused on crime prevention and reduction than the RPC. The Met Police has its own aims. I will be tough on those that commit crime. They have to expect to be arrested."

Ovens said officers would target "alcohol-fuelled, yobbish disorder", particularly at summer events in the parks. He will also look to cut crimes such as thefts of iPods from people sleeping on park benches.

He said: "There can be 40,000 people in Hyde Park on a summer’s day, so there are rich pickings for opportunitists."

A Royal Parks representative praised the policing of the parks, saying: "Dealing with people relaxing in the parks requires a different form of policing from that provided elsewhere in London and the MPS is committed to developing this aspect of the service.

"In the OCU’s first year of operation, 46 police community support officers (PCSOs) were introduced to the parks. The general PCSO role evolved into a ‘parks PCSO’ role. The OCU has been noticeably successful in increasing the visible police presence within the Royal Parks. They exceeded targets for high-visibility patrols by 140 per cent last year, ensuring the parks remained largely free from disturbance and crime."

The RPC will transfer the last of its 163 officers and administrative staff at the end of the month.

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